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The myth about removing platters for data recovery

Tuesday, February 23rd, 2010

I want to clear out some misconception about platters and the recovery of the data on them.

When your hard drive failed, and that issue is clicking related, there maybe not much you, as a user, can do to get the data.

Two things can make a drive clicks, bad read/write heads or firmware. The read/head(s) of the drive will seek back and forth without finding its bootstrap (so to speak) because of damaged heads.  The drive will behave same way when firmware is corrupted, and successive clicking will damage the heads. Eventually the heads will crash onto the platter where the platters themselves will get damaged. At this point, it is very difficult for data recovery companies to retrieve your data.

About the myth

Customers assume that, since the platter is where the data reside, they can remove the platters and put it on another drive and get it to work.

So the impulse is to open the hard drive’s cover, and play around the shiny plates. These are some shiny plates that once your fingers are there, you are busted. Your fingerprints will not be removed without creating more smudges.

There are some situations where opening the hard drive will do you no good. Staring at the platters will not recover the data. Spin the platters will not do it either. If the heads are bad, they will need to be replaced by professional data recovery engineers.

In one of our blogs about how to protect your external hard drive from drop, we talked about platters’ alignment.

I think that I am at liberty to state the fact for professional data recovery services. WE DO NOT TAKE PLATTERS OFF A DISK TO RECOVER DATA, especially for multiple platter disks. If the hard drive has motor issue, there, we may have no choice to do so. The thing we do to recover data on bad head drive is to replace the bad component—Heads.

On a single disk platter, some engineers would remove the platter rather the head(s). In this company, DataMedia Recovery, we deal strictly with head swap, unless it is those slim Maxtor drives. People in data recovery would know what I am talking about here.

Ok! your data will not be recovered if you removed or shifted the platters of a multiple disks’ drive. That data is a goner. The alignment of these disk’s platters is gone forever; and without it, the drive will not work.

Even when you don’t remove the platters or put fingerprints on them, you introduce dust particles inside the disk.  You heard about clean room that data recovery companies use to work inside the drive. The second you open the disk, numerous dust particles land on the top platter. If you read the storagereview.com’s article, you will know that the distance between the read/write head(s) and the platter‘s surface is small enough for dust particles to crash and damage the platters.

You know, momentum can be a killer. When I am driving sometimes and I get to an intersection, my momentum pushes me forward; cars are coming, and I know to stop, but my momentum pushes me to be risky.  I would cross the street, knowing that I could have waited until the road is clear.

I know this is more about impulse than momentum. But the minute you open this drive, your momentum will push you do more, even when you know the risk.

So, we do not take platters out and read it from a special machine. I wish such machine existed. It would be expensive too. But it would worth every dollar. I say kudos to all data recovery technicians that can do this work efficiently. It is nerve-wracking to do head transplants. It is also exciting when it is successful.

I hope I cleared the myth, and give you caution when it comes to a clicking hard drive. Who is touching your platter? Hope it is not you, or some friends that have no business in opening a hard drive.

“The last word from the dying patient, data”